Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a press conference at his office in Jerusalem on Wednesday to address the world's responses to the takeover of the Gaza-bound aid ship that went awry and left nine passengers dead and many injured, including Israeli soldiers.
The incident evoked enraged responses and calls for an international inquiry. Netanyahu called such responses "a hypocritical international assault."
Netanyahu addressed Hamas' rearming via the smuggling tunnels and ships that have been intercepted in the past by the Israel Defense Forces. "It is our duty to prevent these weapons from entering Gaza through the air, sea and land," he said.
"Had the maritime siege been broken, dozens, hundreds more such flotillas would have arrived. There is an Iranian port in Gaza. Such a port threatens Europe and other countries."
According to the prime minister, "This last flotilla's aim was to break this maritime siege. Its purpose was not to deliver goods."
Of the violence on the ship, he said, "Our soldiers were met with a violent group – this was no Love Boat – it was a hate boat. This was not a peace flotilla, it was a hate flotilla. They attempted to lynch the IDF solders, they wanted to kill them. Are these peace seekers? They are violent."
'What would world have done?'
He explained that Israel had no choice but to act the way it did. "I ask myself what soldiers of other democratic countries would have done in a similar situation. They would have acted the same way at best," he said.
"I regret the loss of life – but I am proud of the soldiers. I ask the international community, what would you have done in a similar situation? We all know the truth. Therefore, we will continue to defend our troops, we will allow them to defend themselves and defend the State of Israel."
Earlier Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution setting up an independent international probe into Israel's interception of the ships.
The resolution, which also condemned Israel's "outrageous attack," was adopted after a vote, with 32 countries voting in favor, three against, and eight abstentions.
Meanwhile, Turkish lawmakers called on the government to review its political, military and economic ties with Israel.
In a declaration approved by a show of hands, the lawmakers also said Israel must formally apologize for the raid Monday on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine people, pay compensation to the victims and bring those responsible to justice.
Following the political entanglement and the threats heard from around the world, Israel decided to release the hundreds of detainees who tried to break the siege on Gaza.
The detainees, including those behind the lynching, were held at Ela Prison in Beersheba, and on Wednesday were transferred to Ben Gurion International Airport to be deported back to their countries of origin. Over 100 detainees from Arab countries were released to Jordan on Tuesday.